“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” Or so say the lyrics of one of the familiar songs of this season. Christmastime is filled with iconic images and lasting symbols of the season, both sacred and secular. They fill store windows and household living rooms: a star, a snowflake, a shepherd, a candy cane, a wise man. But in pondering this season and just what it means to a child of God, I’ve come to consider a different symbol to be the most significant—the manger!
I’m not talking about the manger overshadowed by its messianic inhabitant. I’m considering the manger itself. In doing so, I realize it doesn’t have the glamor of some of the other icons of the season, but you see, that’s the point. The manger—the simple, nondescript, utilitarian manger—speaks to us in some profound ways. Here are but a couple.And once we have known Him, we rest in the comfort that He understands our dilemma. Click To Tweet
The manger says, “Christmas is for everyone.”
We don’t know all that went on during that prophetically significant night, but I’m quite sure some of our preconceived ideas about it are flawed.
The manger—the simple, nondescript, utilitarian manger—speaks to us in some profound ways.
Certainly, our nativity scenes with the wise men and the shepherds gathered together are inaccurate. It is unlikely that there were any camels or even donkeys present.
But by the same token, I suspect there were others present we read nothing about, for we know that the shepherds left there and told everyone what they had seen. Some must have come to see, for a baby just naturally draws a crowd.
And while we don’t know everything about those who came to view the child, we can be sure they were not alike. No doubt some were righteous and some were wicked. I’m sure some were wise and some were simple. Some were educated and some were not. On that night the manger welcomed the wealthy and the common, the religious and the carnal, and the curious and the convinced. But everyone could come!
This echoes of the words of Scripture, “And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” (Revelation 22:17). What a blessing that each of us found ourselves somewhere in the “whosoever”! Look around the church, and you’ll see the testimony of the manger. Everyone can come—educated and simple, rich and poor, every color, every kindred.
The manger says, “He understands us.”
How often have you heard some politicians talk about the financial pressures of the middle class and thought, You make about five hundred thousand dollars a year. What do you know about a financial crunch? There’s something rather disconcerting about the disconnect between where we are and where our “leaders” might be. “I feel your pain” is hard to accept when they’ve never been in pain!
But the message of the manger is that our Lord understands us, for His entrance was anything but comfortable.
How difficult it would be for us if our Lord had known only comfort, ease, and rose petals. But the message of the manger is that our Lord understands us, for His entrance was anything but comfortable. He was not cuddled and comforted. From the first night of His life, He was acquainted with the hardships of human existence.
And that night was merely a harbinger of things to come. He lived a blue-collar life of labor. He suffered sickness. He was betrayed by a friend. His motives were questioned. While I’m not glad He had to go through such things, I’m glad I know He can relate to me.
“For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:15–16).
If this holiday season finds you in a time of pain, the manger offers the reminder that He knew pain. When we’re scared, the manger speaks to us that He was scared. When we’re alone, the manger tells us that He too was alone. When we don’t understand, the manger points forward to a day when He cried, “Why hast thou forsaken me!” I’m glad He came in a manger and not a bassinet. It allows me to know that He understands.
No, an unoccupied manger probably will never capture the same place of prominence in holiday decor as does the star, but its message resonates in our lives. We come to Him with a host of others and all arrive on equal footing there. And once we have known Him, we rest in the comfort that He understands our dilemma. In a profound sense, we all rest in the manger!
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